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Library News

Legislative Staff Week!

By Elizabeth Lincoln

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) designated December 4-8 as Legislative Staff Week.  NCSL's staff section of librarians, the Legislative Research Librarians, is a tight group.  Legislative librarians around the country use the listserv nearly daily to gain insight into other states' processes and gather state-by-state legislative information on behalf of legislators and staff in their own state.

The legislative librarians' group has a long history--even longer than NCSL.  An NCSL guide summarizes: "The impetus for LRL came from librarians who began meeting informally at the National Legislative Conference's Annual Meeting in 1968.  In 1975, when NCSL was established, LRL had already been together for seven years.  In 1978, LRL adopted bylaws and became an independent NCSL staff section."

Legislative libraries also have a long history.  Charles McCarthy was a college football star who was hired as a state documents librarian by the Wisconsin Free Library Commission in 1901.   McCarthy’s vision far exceeded the role assigned to him and he immediately began providing extensive assistance in obtaining information legislators needed. His service vision was a radical departure from the more traditional vision of libraries that focused more on collections. While he actively pursued a wide range of materials, especially current newspapers and magazines, the services he provided, including bill drafting, were heavily utilized and greatly appreciated by Wisconsin legislators.  For more information, read this article about Charles McCarthy in State Legislatures or an article about the Minnesota and Wisconsin legislative libraries in Jottings & Digressions.

One group of legislative staff has an even longer history--the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries was established in 1943.  Most of the eight other staff sections were established in the mid-1970s.

The legislative librarians have come to Minnesota twice in recent history.  The Minnesota Legislative Reference Library hosted the NCSL Legislative Research Librarians professional development seminar in 2009 and also hosted the librarians as part of NCSL's Legislative Summit in Minneapolis in 2014.